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11. Other Experimental Platforms for Linux

As the MIPS, ARM, and 68030 hardware and users are somewhat rarer, those ports are likely to continue to be in some respects somewhat more experimental. (Mind you, if Corel Computers is planning to use ARM/Linux in shipping product, it can't be too unstable, and I also hear good reports concerning the stability of the 68K versions. And someone who would try a 68K install is probably more knowledgeable than the average IA-32 user...)

The PPC ports are fairly prolific, with both monolithic and microkernelled versions of Linux.

Other even more obscure ports include the Fujitsu AP1000+, for supercomputing applications and probably others. One I'm somewhat interested in is the Sun 3 port, to Sun's 68K-based systems.

There's even VAXlinux, a port to Digital's VAX architecture. This is probably not terribly cost effective, as the annual power bill for a VAX might outweigh the cost of an Intel PC of equivalent computing power, but the idea is pretty cool...

Linux on DOS Card on Mac is another unusual option.

There is increasing support for High Performance Computing using Linux. One common approch is that of SMP (Symmetric Multi-Processing), documented at Linux Parallel Processing HOWTO, Linux SMP (Symmetric MultiProcessing).

The The Athlon Linux Project is seeking to help people tune their Linux distributions to run faster on AMD Athlon CPUs. This includes using agcc - GCC Tuned for Athlon See also AMD Athlon Processor Technical Documents

11.1. Linux on Video Games Consoles

An April Fools article described Linux N/64 for the $200 Nintendo 64; it was quite believable as an N/64 has nearly enough hardware to do the job. Bump 2MB of RAM up to 16MB, put in an Ethernet chip and a port, put in a video chip that's nicely supported by XFree86 (S3V?), and you've got enough hardware for an X-Terminal. (A keyboard connector might also be necessary.) This should still have a price tag under $350, if sold in reasonable quantity. Sounds like a decently functional Network Computer to me; I'd buy one.

The Sony Playstation has hardware very similar to that on the N/64; turning either into a "Network Computer" ought to be equally feasible from a technical standpoint.

What I'd really like to see is a relatively cheap (under $1000?) MIPS-based motherboard configured to handle multiple MIPS CPUs. Preferred specs:

Even with a $1000 motherboard, populating it with 8 MIPS 4300's would be cheap and it seems likely that this would be substantially more powerful than any Intel offering involving less than 4 processors.

This could really help to popularize Linux SMP ...

11.2. Miscellaneous CPU and Architecture Links

11.3. MMX and Linux

The value of the "MMX" instruction approach popularized by Intel has been pretty limited so far. Since these "do-lots-of integer ops" instructions require doing "register spills" of floating point registers when one switches to MMX execution, this limits somewhat the performance benefits available from using MMX instructions on a multitasking system.

Far more important is that actually using MMX instructions requires that you be very nearly coding in assembly language in order to recognize instruction patterns that might be sped up by replacing them by an MMX instruction.

As a result of that, as well as the consideration that CPUs and assemblers don't universally support the MMX instructions, the usefulness of MMX on Linux has been, thus far, fairly limited. This has not hindered other vendors from coming out with MMX-like technologies such as AMD with 3DNow!.

The most likely sorts of candidates for substantial speedups would include:

Google

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Contact me at cbbrowne@acm.org